Food & Drink

Campbell’s newest soups promise easy cooking

Easy soup??

In the past few years, Campbell’s Soup has been adding not just flavors but whole new lines of soup at a dizzying pace. The newest collection from Campbell’s is brick-packed Soups for Easy Cooking.

Newspaper and TV ads suggest that these soups “reduce the number of steps needed to make delicious meals.” That was briefly puzzling to Mr. Tidbit, until he saw that one of the four flavors is Savory Portobello Mushroom. So these are new versions of some of what he thinks of as “the casserole soups”: the subset of red-and-white-label condensed soups that carry the “great for cooking” banner.

Mr. Tidbit was unclear about the difference between “great for cooking” soups and new “easy cooking” soups. The carton-side instructions for using the new product as soup (instead of as recipe fodder) indicate that it is a regular-strength (not condensed) product. It turns out the new soup is pretty thick, though not as thick as undiluted condensed soup. (The new soup and the condensed soup cost about the same per ounce.)

Further comparisons between new brick-pack Savory Portobello Mushroom and condensed Cream of Mushroom:

The new carton is difficult to open: Mr. Tidbit could follow the three-step spout instructions (“1 Lift, 2 Fold, 3 Tear”) only through “1 Lift.” He finally cut off the spout with a scissors.

The new soup is richer and lots more herbily flavorful — he hopes you will accept “herbily” without further discussion — than regular Cream of Mushroom. A glance at the two ingredient lists confirms that the new one gets flavor contributions from many more actual foods.

If it were up to Mr. Tidbit, he would have flagged the cans of condensed soups as “great for easy cooking” and the new ones as “great for flavorful cooking.”

That said, anybody who substitutes Savory Portobello Mushroom in a family favorite recipe that has always used Cream of Mushroom is heading for big trouble, as in “What on earth did you do to the casserole?”

Unless your family is free of traditionalists, use the new soup only for new recipes.

Mr. Tidbit is a weekly feature that examines new grocery products.

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